Terrestrial invasive species


Most of these invasive plant factsheets are created from the booklet Minnesota invasive non-native terrestrial plants, an identification guide for resource managers.

Check the additional resources and herbicides table for more information.

Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)



Appearance: Monocarpic perennial herbaceous plant (plant spends one or more years in rosette stage, blooms under favorable conditions, and then dies), 6" high in the rosette stage and 4' high on stout, grooved stems in the flowering stage.

Leaves: Alternate, leaf is made up of 5 -15 egg shaped leaflets along both sides of a common stalk; leaflets sharply-toothed or lobed at the margins; upper leaves smaller.

Flowers: Flat-topped broad flower cluster 2 - 6" wide, numerous five-petaled yellow flowers; bloom from June to late summer.

Seeds: Small, flat, round, slightly ribbed, strawcolored, abundant take 3 weeks to ripen before they can reseed; viable in the soil for 4 years.

Roots: Long, thick, edible taproot.

Warning - Avoid skin contact with the toxic sap of the plant tissue by wearing gloves, long sleeves and long pants. The juice of wild parsnip in contact with skin in the presence of sunlight can cause a rash and blistering and discoloration of the skin (phytophotodermatitis).

Ecological Threat:

  • Well established prairies are not likely to be invaded by wild parsnip, but it readily moves into disturbed habitats, along edges and or in disturbed patches. It invades slowly, but once population builds it spreads rapidly and can severely modify open dry, moist, and wet-moist habitats.
  • It is primarily a problem in southeastern Minnesota in prairies and oak openings.
  • A native of Europe and Asia this plant has escaped from cultivation, it is grown as root vegetable, and is common throughout the U.S.
  • Wild parsnip is a MDA Prohibited Noxious Weed (Control List) in Minnesota.


Control Methods:


Do nothing in healthy prairies, natives can sometimes outcompete the parsnip

Hand pulling and removing of plants

Cut the plant below the root crown before seeds set, and remove the cut plant

Mow or cut the base of the flowering stem and remove


Use sparingly in quality habitats

Spot application with glyphosate or selective metsulfuron after a prescribed burn, parsnip is one of the first plants to green up


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources